The web provides an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to carry out family history research.
- how to start
- where to find sources
- family history organisations
- family history gateways
- chat rooms, newsgroups and mailing lists.
This guide is intended to give an overview, with examples, of family history material that is available on the web.
How to start
A good place to get started, if you are new to family history, is the The National Archives site, which has an introductory guide on how to begin family history research.
Family History from the The National Archives provides information on the basics of family history research. The site provides an online catalogue of research guides and information for visitors to The National Archives. The site also provides details of the Family Records Centre.
Other introductory guides:
- Guides to help you in your research from the Familia website
- Getting started in genealogy and family history from Genuki
Where to find sources
Public bodies, libraries, archives and record offices often have web sites which provide information on the type of records which they hold. Some organisations also have online catalogues. Therefore, although it is not normally possible to obtain copies of records online, the internet can be used to locate information and to prepare for a visit to a repository. Some useful websites include:
The UK family history online website, created by familyrecords.gov consortium, aims to provide information about and links to all the main UK family history websites. The main focus of the site is on using UK and Irish government resources for family history research. The information on the site is divided into the following categories; births, deaths and marriages, census, wills, parish registers, migration, military records and adoption. Each section provides basic information on how and where to locate information. The site maintains a selection of relevant links. Other features of the site include a news and events sections. Online help is available and it is possible to search the site.
The familyrecords.gov consortium is made up from the National Archives, Public Records of Northern Ireland, National Archives of Scotland, Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/ National Library of Wales, General Register Office, Scotland and British Library, and the India Office. Links to all these institutions are provided on the site.
The National Archives holds the national archives for England, Wales and the United Kingdom. The public records date from the Domesday Book in 1086 to the present; earlier private records are also held.
The web site of the National Archives provides a wealth of information about its activities and collections. There is, for example, information about opening hours, locations and events. The site provides a host of information for current and potential readers including online information guides, details of how to plan a visit and services that the National Archives offers.
The National Archive hosts an online catalogue which contains over nine million document references. These document references provide descriptions of the document and descriptions of their series. It is possible either to search or to browse the catalogue and online help is available.
The General Register Office for Scotland is responsible for the registration of births, deaths, marriages, divorces and adoptions in Scotland. It has produced an online guide on using family records.
The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) is the repository for all the public and legal records of Scotland which are to be preserved. Local and private records are also held. The NAS site provides information on its work and details of the archives held. The site also provides details of exhibitions, information on the conservation of archives and details of educational resources. A series of fact sheets are available from the site. These are in PDF format. The subjects covered by these fact sheets include: adoption, buildings, crafts and trade, crime and criminals, deeds, education, estate records, lighthouses, the poor and Wills and Testaments. Other features of the site include information for family historians and researchers. These sections include information for people planning a visit to the National Archives of Scotland and a list of FAQs for family historians.
The General Register Office (Northern Ireland) is responsible for the registration of births, deaths, marriages and adoptions in Northern Ireland.
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is the official place of deposit for public records in Northern Ireland. The earliest records date from 1219 with the majority of records dating from 1600 onwards. PRONI aims to collect, catalogue and preserve documents that provide a legal or historical record of the past. It also aims to make as many records as possible available to the public for consultation and research. PRONI holds government and local authority records as well as records from private depositors. Details about these records are available from the web site. This information includes an alphabetical listing of collections from private depositors and a subject index which lists major collections. The web site provides general information on how to use the collections, and online guides are available on how to use different types of records and collections. PRONI is planning to put its records database online which will much enhance an already valuable resource. As well as providing information on the collections, the web site gives details of opening hours and the location of the office. There is a list of FAQs and a list of useful links. Details of exhibitions and publications are also provided. The site is relatively straightforward to navigate; there is a search facility and online help on how to use the site is available.
The web site of the National Archives of Ireland provides information about holdings and publications as well as general information for readers. Information for readers includes opening hours, contact and location details and rules and regulations. The web site gives both general and detailed information about the archives. There is an online searchable bibliographic database of archives. This online database does not include details of all the documents available but the amount of material covered is currently being expanded. It is possible to search all the material covered by the database or an individual series of holdings. An online guide to help searching the database effectively is available. As well as providing details of its holdings the National Archives of Ireland has produced an interesting selection of online research guides, which aim to give prospective researchers detailed information on specific research topics and collections. Online information for genealogists is also provided.
This site provides details for anyone planning a visit to the National Library of Wales. The guide also provides information on the types of sources available at the library. These sources include church records (registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, bishops transcripts, marriage bonds and other diocesan records), wills, legal and administrative records (Great Sessions, Quarter Sessions, Poor law and parochial records, educational records and manorial records), estate records and pedigree books.
The Family Records Centre holds indexes to all births, deaths and marriages registered in England and Wales from July 1837 onwards and adoptions from 1927. Although it is not possible to search these indexes online the Office of National Statistics web site provides information on the Family Records Centre and its holdings.
A2A: The Access to Archives project intends to create an online national archives catalogue for England. This catalogue will bring together records of national, regional and local importance dating from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. The catalogue is being created at the Public Record Office and similar projects are being carried out in Wales and Scotland. A pilot project has been carried out and the interim catalogue which it created is available from the site. The catalogue currently contains details of 42 collections from record offices which participated in the pilot project. Help on how to search the catalogue effectively is available. The web site provides a host of information about the project; about its aims, infrastructure and methodology, types of records to be included, news, work in progress etc. The web site also maintains a list of links relating to the project, standards, UK sites and other sites of interest.
This site has information about locating family history sources at a local level from public libraries.
Family history organisations
The website of the Society of Genealogists provides details of the society, its work and projects. Information on opening hours, the library and events are also available from the site. To assist the family historian there are online information leaflets and there is a section on using computers in genealogy. The site also links to Origins.net which is an online genealogical data service. A charge is made for this service.
This is an international organisation that aims to support the work of family history societies and genealogical organisations from around the world. The web site gives details of the society and its work. The site also has a section with online information leaflets on carrying out research. The topics include First steps in family history and using a record office.
Family history gateways
Internet gateways can provide an easy way to locate information on a particular topic, especially where large numbers of sites, as is the case for family history, are available. The quality of gateways does vary; some gateways provide original content, evaluate web pages and organise them into subject categories, while others provide little more than a list of links.
An excellent site for UK and Ireland (includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) family history. The site has information about locating family history sources at a local level from public libraries. Other features of the site include online guides, links to other relevant pages, helpful research resources and a section on maps and places. It is possible to search the site.
This site provides a large list of annotated links to other relevant web sites. The links are organised by geographical area and by subject area. The site also provides information on getting started in family history, a list of FAQs, information about researching UK family history from abroad and a listing of forthcoming events.
Gateway of over 94,200 links which have been divided into subject categories, which can be browsed in a variety of ways. It is also possible to search this site. As well as providing links to other sites this site also provides information for starting out in family history research, a list of FAQs and a guide to creating a family history home page.
The UK family history online web site, created by the familyrecords.gov consortium, aims to provide information about and links to all the main UK family history web sites. The main focus of the site is on using UK and Irish government resources for family history research. The information on the site is divided into the following categories; births, deaths and marriages, census, wills, parish registers, migration, military records and adoption. Each section provides basic information on how and where to locate information. The site maintains a selection of relevant links. Other features of the site include a news and events sections. Online help is available and it is possible to search the site.
The familyrecords.gov consortium is made up from the Public Records Office, Public Records of Northern Ireland, National Archives of Scotland, Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/ National Library of Wales, General Register Office, Scotland and British Library, and the India Office. Links to all these institutions are provided on the site.
The Genealogy section from BUBL links to a small selection of family history web sites.
The British Isles GenWeb project (part of the WorldGenWeb project).
Chat rooms, newsgroups and mailing lists
Mailing lists, newsgroups and chat rooms provide a way of staying in touch with other family historians. They all provide a way of finding out about resources and research methods and give the opportunity to share experiences and ask questions.
The following list is a small sample of the large number of mailing lists, newsgroups and chat rooms for family historians and genealogists.
Mailing list designed for people who are new to family history research.
A large listing of different chatrooms, newgroups and mailing lists on a wide variety of family history topics.
An archive of old messages is available.
A general genealogy newsgroup.
As well as general mailing lists and newsgroups there are lists which concentrate on a particular location or surname. For example: the British Isles GenWeb Project site has a selection of mailing lists which relate to family history in local areas, and genealogyuk is a list concerned with genealogy in England, Scotland and Wales. The Howard-family list is for people researching Howard family history and the bennettzone list concentrates on Bennett family history. (Both these lists include an archive of old messages).